Our latest story in Love It magazine tells how a growing number of young women are putting their lives in danger by skipping insulin injections in a desperate bid to be skinny.
Diabetes Eating Disorder known as Diabulimia
Vulnerable sufferers of Type One Diabetes are falling victim to a terrifying new eating disorder called Diabulimia.
Care assistant Katie Tremayne, 21, lost a third of her body weight suffering from the rare and relatively unknown condition. “I risked my health and even my life by intentionally missing my jabs – all because I wanted to be thin,” says Katie. New reports have revealed that females with Type One Diabetes are at twice the risk of developing anorexia or bulimia – with as many as 40% aged 15 – 30 regularly omitting insulin.*
Having spent years battling the bulge Katie, from Bury, Greater Manchester, had tried every fad diet on the market. After tipping the scales at 17 stone she even resorted to consuming dangerous slimming pills in a desperate bid to stay trim. Katie says: “I must have tried every daft diet you can think of and nothing worked for me. “Then after many struggles and failed attempts I was absolutely amazed to discover that my extra bulge began to drop off with absolutely no effort.”
Katie shed 5 stone in 6 months despite avoiding the gym and feasting on junk food. “Of course my friends became quite jealous of my massive weight loss. “I would get asked constantly: “‘What diet are you on? What exercise are you trying? What’s your secret?’ – But the fact is I wasn’t doing anything differently. “I knew my lifestyle wasn’t exactly healthy. I was downing 18 cans of coke a day as well as feasting on junk food and takeaways.”
Between January and June 2012 Katie shrank from a chunky size 20 to a slim size 10. She says: “When I was bigger I was always conscious of my bulging belly. Having gotten used to hiding my body with baggy jumpers and tracksuit bottoms showing off my new figure was great. “On nights out I could ditch the tights and get my skinny legs out. I was even braving cut- away dresses to show off my trim waist which I would never have done before. “I was now slim enough to wear the clothes I’d always wanted to and it felt fantastic. I was loving the skinny new me but at the same time I had a sinking feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Was this all too good to be true?”
Following a life-changing doctor’s appointment Katie was ‘gutted’ to learn that she had Type 1 Diabetes. The diagnosis meant that Katie would now have to inject herself with daily insulin doses to ensure that her body was processing sugars correctly. After losing five stone when her diabetes was left unchecked Katie was devastated to find she had put a stone back on after taking insulin regularly – until she discovered a dangerous new way to drop the extra pounds.
Katie says: “I was working in a pub at the time when I overhead a colleagues’ conversation about how fast diabetics could lose weight simply by cutting down on their insulin doses. “It seemed like an easy solution to my problems. After having wanted so desperately to be thin and losing all that weight there was no way I was going back to the old me – I’d try anything.”
It wasn’t long before Katie began following the deadly advice even though she was risking sight loss, kidney damage and even her life by skipping her daily injections. Spurred on by even more weight loss Katie’s dangerous habit became more addictive. She says: “As soon as I noticed a difference in the way my clothes fit me I became fixated on shedding those extra pounds. “I went from cutting out the odd injection here and there to having one or sometimes going the whole day without any – my GP had told me my recommended amount was four.”
Without insulin the brain is forced to break down muscle tissue and fat to provide enough energy for the body’s cells. If this continues the body can go into Ketoacidosis which can cause organ damage and even death. Katie says: “I was fully aware of the danger I was putting myself in but I just did not care – all that mattered was being thin. “I found that my new habits started to affect me in strange ways. My personality was changing. I started sneaking around and lying all the time. I would do anything to disguise what I was up to. Over time I became an expert in hiding my dark secret.”
“I did my best to pretend everything was normal by going to the doctors and ordering the insulin like I was supposed to – the last thing I wanted was for anyone to get suspicious. Once I collected it from the pharmacy I’d hide the stash in the fridge in my room. I knew my mum would never bother to look in there so it was the perfect hiding place.”
It wasn’t long before Katie began to face the terrible side effects of insulin deprivation. “I began to get terribly down. I got severe thrush that I could not get rid of. I also suffered from terrible sleeplessness. I’d get 12 hours kip a night yet still wake up feeling completely exhausted. Despite all of this I carried on messing with my body… risking everything to be thin.”
A chance click on a Facebook advert gave Katie the wakeup call she needed to turn her life around. “I was just chatting to friends on the site when I noticed an advert by Diabetes UK. I just idly clicked it – not really thinking too much – when a new page immediately popped up about an eating disorder called Diabulmia. “It mentioned how young women with diabetes were especially prone to developing eating disorders by skipping insulin injections not knowing the damage they were doing to their bodies. In that moment my heart completely sank. I was reading all these horror stories about insulin abusers and it suddenly hit me – I’m one of them. How had I let it get to this stage?
“My boyfriend was sat in my room with me and he saw the shock I was in and demanded to know what was wrong. I had nowhere to hide anymore… it was written all over my face. I told him everything.”
After having lived with her secret for so long Katie was relieved to go to her doctors and confess to what had been going on. She says: “I realise now that I’m lucky to have found out how stupid I was being when I did. My doctor diagnosed me with both bulimia and depression – Diabulimia is still not a recognised condition. I am now much better at dealing with my diabetes – although I do still miss the odd injection here and there which I know is wrong. My family have been so supportive since I admitted my problems. My mum watches me like a hawk now”
Katie is now a healthy size 10 although she admits she occasionally still misses half of recommended daily doses.
Charity DWED (Diabetics With Eating Disorders) is campaigning for the practice of insulin manipulation to be officially recognised as a mental illness. You can read more about Diabulimia below: